Two things prompted me to write this short opinion. One was the ongoing dispute between two Oromianist websites (Gadaa.com and Opride.com) with/against two Ethiopianist websites (Jimmatimes.com and Addis Neger Online); and the other is the e-mail I got few weeks ago from one Oromo friend who had been concerned about our way of naming (giving names to our children).
Oromummaa is Our Primary Identity
Of course, to comprehend why I do consider Oromummaa as a primary identity, just read the following opinion I once wrote: http://gadaa.com/oduu/?p=3362
Opride.com wrote a short comment regarding the effect of religion on the Oromo liberation struggle under the title: “Religion is Pulling Our Struggle Back” as already published also here: http://www.opride.com/oromsis/oromo/789-religion-vs-oromo-struggle.html – of course, quoting the speech of Obbo Ahmed Hussein during the conference prepared by OAA (the Oromo Artists Association) to facilitate the ongoing reconciliation between the OLF factions. Speaking to some of the issues that are undermining the Oromo struggle, Obbo Ahmed Hussein stated, “religion is pulling the Oromo struggle back.”
According to Opride.com, “he cautioned that the Oromo Diaspora communities are abandoning the struggle and turning to churches and mosques. Calling on all Oromos to reevaluate their current role in the advancement of the Oromo struggle, he stressed the notion that religion is a personal matter, while Oromummaa is a collective identity.”
OPride.com further elaborated that Obbo Ahmed in his speech used two examples to distinguish between national identity and religion; simply put, one is born or adopted into a community of people with unique national identity (Oromummaa in our case) while religion is a choice an individual makes later in life or learns as one grows older OPride.com continued, “for instance, Christians go through a religious indoctrination and get baptized. Similar practices also exist among Muslims where people undergo an initiation of sort. Mr. Ahmed went on to say that the Oromo Diaspora communities were becoming too religious (either too Christian or too Muslim) which, according to him, was a worrying trend.”
Obbo Ahmed’s comment, which was quoted by Opride.com, gave a chance to the two Ethiopianist websites, purposely or unknowingly – perhaps owing to language barriers (the video is in Afaan Oromo), to suggest that “the video purports to point out a ‘religious division’ among the Oromo. Or as if Mr. Ahmed said a ‘religious division’ has undermined the Oromo struggle suggesting a religious division as in a division between Christian Oromo vs. Muslim Oromo.”
Is this interpretation of the Ethiopianist websites incidental or intentional? At least Addis Neger Online said it was unintentional. What about our Ethiopianist Oromo website JT (Jimmatimes.com)? Does it lack the courage to say sorry or did it intentionally maneuver the fact in order to sow a discord based on religion among the Oromo polity?
Anyways, thanks to Gadaa.com, things are not out of control; and even if the intention of the Ethiopianists has been malicious, it failed to hit the intended target. But surely, this maneuver caused us to think further about our Oromo identity and how to name ourselves individually.
Naming is Identifying
I here will try to say what could be good to us: to identify ourselves (i.e. name ourselves) in line of our natural identity (Oromummaa). One interesting e-mail in Afaan Oromo I got few weeks ago showed how important it was to name ourselves in Afaan Oromo. The e-mail confirmed the Oromo base of the people in south Gojam, north Shoa and east Wallo, who are today considered as Amhara. Classic examples are these Oromo individuals: the late Walellign Mekonnen of Wallo and the late Belay Zeleqe of Gojam. I would like to post the e-mail here:
” … Habashaan maqaa biyya abbaa keenyaa jijjiirtee, kan ishee tiin iddoo buufteetti; akkasumas maqaa saba keenyaa jijjiirtee, har’a Oromoon garri caalu amma iyyuu maqaa alagaa baataa jira. Mee fakkeenya kana haa ilaallu:
– Waalelliny Makonnin bara mootummaa Haayila Sillaasee lafti kan qotee-bulaa haa ta’u jechuu dhaan barattoota yuniversiitii Finfinnee mootummaa irratti kakaasee, fincila guddaa waan uumeef mootummaan Haayila Sillaasee rasaasaan rukutee ajjeese. Barataan kun sabummaan isaa Amaara jedhamaa ture, har’as ni jedhama, garuu dhugaan jiru akka armaan gadiiti.
* Karaa Abbaa sanyii isaa yoo lakkoofnu, Waalelliny Makonnin Kaasaa Kuraash Jimaa Qayyoo Nya’aa Jaatanii Buksaa Cilaaloo Waaqayyoo Galatoo Waajituu Bilbiloo ta’ee, hidda Oromo ta’uu argisiisa. * Karaa Haadha isaa ammoo, Zannabech Gizawu Boruu Namee ti. Hiddi isaa Tuulama ta’ee gosti isaa Meettaa dha, kan dhalatee guddate ammoo Walloo, Boorana keessatti.
– Belay Zeleqe (Balaay Zallaqaa) gootota beekaman keessaa isa tokko dha. Hiddi isa moo: Balaayi Zallaqaa Laaqoo Aagee Galagal Qilxuu … dha.
Kun kan nu argisiisu, maqaan hammam akka nama dogongorsiisuu dha. Gara fulduraatti waan akkasii akka hin uumamneef, mee hanga dandahametti, Oromoon tokko akka maqaa Oromoo tiin waamamu waan dandeenye haa hojjennu …”
After reading this nice e-mail, I responded with the following short reply:
“Galatoomi, dhugaa jiru lafa keesse. Jara ati kaaste kana lamaan akka fakeenyaatti haa fudhannu malee, namoonni Gojjam kibbaa fi Wallo bahaa jiraatan, akkasumas warri godina amma Showa kaaba jedhamee naanno Amaara jala jiru keessa jiraatan hundi duubni isaani Oromo dha. Kanaafi warri Showa kun afaan Amaara tiin ‘duroo gaallaa nebern’ kan ofiin jedhan. Magaloota gurguddoo kan akka Finfinne fi Diredhawa, iddo Amaara tu bay’ata jedhan keesas, jiraatota otuu qomoo isaani qorree ilaallee, baay’een isaani deemani Oromoo tti galu.”
This nice e-mail helped me think over the importance of identifying ourselves (naming ourselves) in line (in service) of our natural identity (Oromummaa). Just to show why this is important, let’s look at the operational definition of identity and naming. Here, we can differentiate personal identity from social identity:
Personal identity is the way in which a person defines him-/herself in terms of individuality and difference to the others. This might include factors, such as age, gender, nationality, culture, religious affiliation, disability, sexuality, interests, talents, personality traits, and family and friendship networks. The way in which a person sees him-/herself in relation to those around and what makes him/her unique, are all aspects of personal identity. Part of our personal identity is given to us at birth, such as gender, nationality and genetic history. Other aspects of our personal identity are formed during our early years of development and continue to develop during our lives as we grow, mature, make choices, forge relationships and build an evolving identity for ourselves.
Social identity is how we do function within many different social situations and relate to a range of other people. Social groups may involve family, ethnic communities, cultural connections, nationality, friends and work. They are an important and valued part of our daily lives. How we see ourselves in relation to our social groupings defines our social identity. Children, who have been separated from their family or country of origin, may become confused about their personal and social identities. They may have experienced a number of moves, been cared for by different people in different places, lost important contacts and relationships from their past, been separated from family, friends and their ethnic and cultural networks. Feeling or being made to feel different is a major issue for children who have been adopted, particularly for children from diverse cultural backgrounds or with a disability. For the adopted child, the stigma of not living with their birth family, living as a cultural or ethnic minority and becoming accustomed to what it means to be adopted are lifelong adjustments.
Ethnic identity refers to a person’s sense of belonging to an ethnic group. Ethnic identity is drawn from the realization that a person’s thoughts, perceptions, feelings and behaviors are consistent with those of other members of the ethnic group. Ethnic identity recognizes that a person belongs to a particular group that shares not only ethnicity, but also common cultural practices.
Ethnic identity is the type of identity, on which I would like to concentrate in this essay. To be an Oromo belongs here; and it is not only biological identity, but also political (identifying oneself with the Oromo interest) and psychological (identifying with the Oromo problem). One method to make children/individuals to feel that they do belong to certain nation is the naming of the children/individuals.
Just to make this plausible, let’s look at the following opinion I got from someone, which was written in Bilisummaa.com as a response to Obbo Ahmed’s comment:
“Obbo Ahmed, galatoomaa, umurii dheeraa siif haa kennu. Enna maqaa kee “Ahmed Huseen” jedhan Islaammumaa isaa malee, Oromummaa isaa hin calaqisu. Maqaan “Waaqo Guutuu” jedhu moo Orommummaa isaa malee Islammummaa isaa hin agarsiisu. Akasumas maqaa duwwaa tiin “Taddasaa Birruu” ennaa jedhan, Amaarummaa fi Kristaanummaa isaa ibsa. Jarri sadanuu garuu ilmaan Oromoo ti. Kanaaf, amantii Islammaa fi Kiristaana yoo fudhannee, aadaa fi maqaa keenya geeddaruun Orommummaa (eenyumaa) keenya dhoksee, nu fokkisiisee, akka walitti buunu nu godhe. Obbo Ahmed Huseen otoo “Galataa Waaqayoo” jedhamanii; general Taddasaa Birruu otoo ” Dibaabaa Haatoluu” jedhamanii, Oromoon gootota kanaan itti caala boona ture. Aadaan Oromoo lee akanatti babal’ata ture. Mee waara Arabaa ilaalaa: atleetonni keenya fi kan Kenia ennaa biyya issanii gadi dhiisanii, gara Qatar, UAE, Quwait fi Saudi Arabia deemanii isaaniif fiigan, maqaa isaanii maqaa Arabaa tti geeeddarsiisu. Maaliif? Deebi’in gabaabaa tti Eenymaa isaanii awaalanii, Araba fakkeesuufi. Kan darbe hin darbatani, kan dhufuf garuu balleessaa keenya irraa barrannee, waan Orommummaa keenya dhoksu irraa of eeguu qabna.”
What a wonderful opinion! It just helped me understand the logic behind changing names during baptisim (Christanization); all the given names are either of Jewish or Habesha origins. Let’s look at some “lost Oromo” because of such naming: the hero, Abune Phexros (what was his true Oromo name as a child?), who resisted the Italian colonizers; and therefore, martyred; Nigus Michael of Wallo; Nigus Tekle-Hayimanot of Gojam; Nigus Suseniyos of Gondar; emperor Haile-Silassie of Ethiopia; the heroes like Abebe Aregay and Belay Zeleqe; the artists like Xilahun Gesesse and Teddy Afro, etc. All were considered as non-Oromo till we recently could research and find it out that they ALL were/are Oromo. We may need to research further to aknowledge if people like the emperor Minilik-II (our colonizer) and the first king of Shoa (Ye-Kunoo-Amlak) were victims of such naming maneuvers.
The question yet to be answered is, why do Habeshas, Arabs and Jews want to name everyone else in their own languages? Why should every Christian be named with either Habersha or Jewish names? Why should every Muslim be given an Arabic name? Religious motive? Only fools and naives can believe like this. I would like to say: it is more political than religion for it is one of the very effecitve way of assimilating. By identifying an individual with such names, it is possible to take a part of his/her identity towards the nation to which the name belongs. If the individual is both politically and psychologically not mature enough, it is sure that he/she feels to belong to the nation where his name comes from. That is what Habeshas did during Ximqet celebrations in Oromia and in other occupied national areas. They changed Oromo names to Habesha names. This process of changing names used to also be done in schools, in military camps and in the other institutions of the imperial system of domination.
Actually, changing of only names would have been not so grave, where an individual is conscious enough to know to which nation he/she belongs not only biologically, but also politically and psychologically. The worst is when such individuals lose their roots like those who do like to say: “duuroo gaallaa nebern,” as the Amharanized Oromo in south Gojam, north Shoa and east Wallo would like to say, and “ye Oromo dem allebin” like the Amharanized urbanites in Finfinne, Diredhawa and in other big towns would like to narrate. I know that these Oromo individuals lost, not only their Oromo name, but they lost also their Oromo language and the Oromo way of life.
Thanks to the Oromo liberation movement being led by OLF, things are now moving in the right direction of getting back to Oromummaa. What those who got Habesha, Arabic and Jewish names should do is only to go to Hammachiisaa and change their names back to the very attractive and beautiful Oromo names. Let the Oromo named Teshager Goraw be renamed to Firaaol Jaalataa; let the Oromo named Asegedech Qixawu be renamed to Dammee Aadaa; let the Oromo named Ashebbir Anberbbir be renamed to Roobsan Nagaa; let the Oromo named Getnet Tagay be renamed to Obsaa Beekaa; let the Oromo named Difabachew Cenniqee be renamed to Boonaa Guddaa, etc. So ALL Oromo with non-Oromo names, please let’s hurry to go to Hammachiisaa and get the great Oromo names.
I hope in the future, Raya Oromos, who now make their geerarsaa/qerertoo in Tigirinya, and Gojam/Wallo Oromos, who make their geerarsaa/qereertoo in Amharinya, will come back to their roots and make their geerarsaa in Afaan Oromo. Oromo with politically conscious mentality now need to work on it and help those who had lost their identity to Habesha, to Arab and to Jews so that they can come back and celebrate their origin. It is clear that one part of Oromummaa is our own style of naming ourselves and our children; the other aspects of our identity are, of course, Aadaa Oromoo, Afaan Oromoo and Amantii Oromoo, where we need to invest a lot and on which development we should work hard. So it is now the right time to revive and develop all aspects of our identity.
The key to the realization of these elements of our identity is, of course, the success in our struggle for bilisummaa. We need to be smart enough to know how to push for bilisummaa. Just as an example, we need to have optimal approach in dealing with the current power balance in the Ethiopian empire. That is why I do want that we need to weigh our positions in the context of the present situation, time and space. Just to describe one situation, the two dimentional Czeck vs. Slovakia struggle, where the two nations opted for peaceful separation, was very different from the hitherto multi-dimentional (at least three dimentional) struggle in the Ethiopian empire. This multi-dimentionality makes the situation in Ethiopia very different from this example and even from other examples like Israel vs. Palestine; Chechenien vs. Russia; Serbs vs. others; Kurdistan vs. Turky, etc.
In Ethiopia, the fact that at least three forces (Amhara, Tigrai and Oromia) are fighting against each other for either domination or liberation is unique. This triangular struggle needs wisdom in knowing and using the possible alliances of “two against one.” Till 1991, there had been no confusion, Oromian liberation forces and Tigrean “liberation” forces had formal or informal alliances against the dominating and ruling Amhara elites. From 1991 till 2006, there was a confusion for Amhara opposition forces and Oromo liberation forces could not trust each other to foster an alliance against the now dominating/ruling Tigrean elites. From 2006 (the first attempt of forming AFD) till now, there is approach-avoidance conflict between these two forces, which seem to be diametrically opposite (Amhara crying for unitary Ethiopia and Oromo singing about independent Oromia).
The ruling Tigrean elites do exploit this fact and pour a kerosine to the fire of conflict between Amahara and Oromo forces. If this conflict continues, there is no chance to get victory over Tigrean elites for the Amhara forces and the Oromo forces do neutralize each other. If they are smart enough, these two opposition camps should try to unify and consolidate their own camps first and then foster a tactical alliance against the ruling Tigrean elites. To promote such a possibility of an alliance, Amhara forces should moderate themselves and stop their cry about the unconditional ONLY unitary Ethiopia as well as the Oromo forces should moderate themselves and refrain from singing the unconditional ONLY independent Oromia. The compromise middle position for both can be an autonomous Oromia within the Ethiopian Union, so that Amhara forces need not be anti-Oromia and Oromo forces need not be anti-Ethiopia.
After getting rid of the Weyane tyrannts, the two opposition camps can go for public verdict and then live according to the result. Otherwise, we have to be sure that neither Amhara unitarists nor Oromo liberators will get victory over the polarizing machine of the Tigrean elites. Then, both BIG nations have to be ready to be ruled by the Tigrean oligarchy for at least the next one century. The question to the elites of the two BIG nations is, are we as such fool or naive to fall into the trap of the polarizing Tigrean elites? The way forward for ALL the currently oppressed nations and nationalities in the region/empire (including the Amhara) is to come back to their original national identity and then cooperate regionally for the possible common benefit. Both the past assimilative colonization under Amhara elites and the present hegemonic colonization under the Tegaru elites need to come to the end.
So, last but not least, I would like to encourage ALL the conscious Oromo from all walks of life to go to Hammachiisaa and get our lovely and true Oromo names, being liberated from the alien past naming. Following this Oromo example, I also recommend for individuals who do belong to the other oppressed nations in the empire to do the same. I hope the Habeshas, the Arabs and the Jews will not be disappointed when we just become aware of the motives behind their insistence to name foreingers in their languages. They are really so smart that they could instrumentalize their religions (Christianity, Islam and Judaism) in order to influence the other nations. It is very easy to persuade a believer of one religion to take the name of the nation, which is considered to be the origin of the respective religion in comparison to the non-believers. So Oromo, let’s go for Hammachiisaa from now on and may Waaqayyo/Rabbii bless us all!
* Fayyis Oromia can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.